A woman who tried to have her ex-husband killed so that she could spend more time with her children was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday afternoon.
Judge Deno Economou sentenced 35-year-old Rachael Leahy to 20 years in prison with three years probation, and ordered Leahy to have no contact with her ex-husband.
During the hearing, Leahy told Judge Economou through tears that she was “so incredibly ashamed” of herself, and was “mortified” at her actions. She said she was struggling in the “worst kind of way” and that she “regrets this so much.”
While she spoke, her ex-husband sat alone on a courtroom bench, rubbing his head in his hands.
Leahy’s attorney, Peter D. Aiken, said that she was mentally ill, explaining she has been evaluated and examined more than once. A mental health expert, Dr. Harry Morgan, testified that Leahy hit all 10 characteristics for PTSD, along with an adjustment disorder. Leahy, Morgan said, could be treated, but it would require a lot of work. He went on to say that, due to her mental illness, Leahy trusts no one but will also trust someone who appears to be a “savior” to her and does not view life rationally.
During a cross examination, the State Attorney’s office inquired if Leahy’s PTSD could have been caused by her being caught and charged with a felony crime. Morgan said it wouldn’t have been the cause, but could have added to the already existing condition.
The State Attorney’s Office argued that Leahy was intelligent, having earned a degree from the University of South Florida in 2014. Morgan agreed, saying he would guess she had an IQ of at least 110, but did not run tests to get an exact result. But, Morgan said, there is no doubt in his mind that Leahy has a clear long-term disorder.
During his testimony, Morgan explained that Leahy saw herself as a victim in her divorce and family court hearings where she lost custody of her children, and that she believed her “babies” had been taken from her.
The investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office began on Aug. 22, after detectives received a tip Leahy was trying to have her ex-husband killed.
An informant was used to provide her with a phone number for an undercover detective posing as a hitman. Leahy arranged to meet with the undercover detective three times and had a dozen phone calls to him, saying her ex-husband kept her from her children. The only solution, to her, was to have him out of the picture completely.
According to video of Leahy’s meeting with an undercover detective, Leahy was desperate to get her children back and she needed her ex-husband dead.
“The only thing that matters is I don’t get to see my children,” Leahy said in the video. “There’s no other resolution to this other than him to be gone completely.”
Leahy’s ex-husband was the first to testify in her sentencing. He said their marriage was good for the first year but got “rockier and rockier” as time went on and the divorce was “somewhat” contentious. He also claimed that Leahy had been mistreating her children, now 11, 9 and 7 years old.
In his testimony Monday, her ex-husband denied doing anything to interfere with custody agreements.
A man who used to live with Leahy “on and off” while she cared for his parents testified that her condition “deteriorated” and had he had no idea she was planning to have her ex-husband killed. The lead Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detective in the case was also called to testify.
Leahy gave the undercover detective information about her ex-husband, along with a photograph, and paid the detective $2,500 in two installments — half of the $5,000 price tag to have him killed. She planned to leave the country while the murder took place.
“I pour my heart out to you today in this court. I will have to live the rest of my life with all the things that I’ve done. I’ve let everyone down,” Leahy said, explaining she was exhausted and desperate about her kids. “I did a terrible thing to bring my babies back to me. Looking back at what I did, I truly believe I was out of my mind.”
Aiken asked the court to consider a far lesser sentence than the state’s requested 22 years. But as Judge Economou issued his decision, he noted there were “no winners” in this matter and “actions must have consequences.”